Nationwide, there appears to have been a nearly 5% reduction in overdose deaths nationwide in 2018, according to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Connecticut’s drop was less than the national average, coming in at just under 1%. The data indicates vast differences among states.
Eighteen states saw an increased number of overdose deaths last year, the remainder of states had their numbers drop. Among the majority of states that experienced a decrease, Connecticut had among the smallest reductions. Missouri saw an increase of 17%; Alaska, South Dakota and Ohio experienced decreases exceeding 20%.
Nationally, the data indicate that 68,500 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2018, compared to more than 70,000 the year before. The reduction – if the numbers hold when final data is analyzed – would reflect the first decline in drug mortality rates since 1990, and despite a nationwide opioid epidemic.
Though the data aren’t final, the estimates reflect a dramatic reversal from years of significant increases in fatal drug overdoses. Between 1999 and 2017, the number of annual drug overdose deaths in the U.S. went from 16,849 to more than 70,237, according to federal data published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The estimated numbers from the CDC are subject to change since drug overdose deaths are often reported “pending investigation” without a cause of death, according to the agency. Final results are not expected for several months. Connecticut’s preliminary overdose death totals for 2018 place the state in the middle-of-the-pack, reflecting a slight reduction in the annual number of deaths.
Nationwide, while a leveling off — or decline — in overdose deaths would be widely viewed as good news, the overdose death rate is still about seven times higher than it was a generation ago, according to published reports.
The data also contain some causes for concern. Deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants like methamphetamine and MDMA rose slightly from 2017 to 2018 amidst the overall decline.
Among the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (other synthetic narcotics) with more than 28,400 overdose deaths, according to the agency. In 2018 fentanyl and related drugs were involved in nearly half of the reported overdose deaths, according to the preliminary CDC data.
“The increase in deaths involving heroin is driven by the use of fentanyl,” the CDC noted last year, asserting that the “main driver of drug overdose deaths were opioids―mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone), with a 12.9-fold increase from 2007 to 2017.”